Hi everyone –
Here is an interesting and succinct piece by Australia’s Bill Whittaker,one of the architects of Australia’s response to AIDS, discussing in a nutshell what just happened at the JUNE 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS. Worth a quick read to catch up on what happened at the UN, and hear about the bold steps the UN Declaration called for and that member states pledged to implement. Take it away Bill! (Note: Although Bill refers in part to Australia’s role in commiting to the pledge, it is a message all countries can take away. Link to full article here)
Bill starts off with some current insights…
The global fight against AIDS is at a crossroads. On the one hand we have exciting new scientific evidence which could dramatically reverse the pace of the HIV epidemic and prevent millions of new infections, sickness and deaths.
On the other hand, there is weariness and complacency after 30 years of the epidemic as well as a global financial crisis putting tremendous pressure on national budgets around the world and threatening funding essential to reverse the relentless spread of HIV.
Mind-numbing statistics speak for themselves about the scale of the HIV epidemic and the work to be done: 30 million lives lost; another 33 million people living with HIV; and 7000 new infections occurring every day, mostly among young people.
New HIV treatments are having a tremendous impact in reducing illness and AIDS-related deaths, but the sustainability of providing HIV treatment – especially in low to middle-income countries – is threatened by the reality that for every one person put on HIV treatment, another two people become infected.
(He then gives some background to what took place in June this year in New York)
Recently, the United Nations agreed to a bold new Declaration to fight AIDS which Australia played a leading role in getting all UN Member States to endorse. A centrepiece of the UN Declaration are bold new HIV prevention targets for the global community to reach by 2015.
These global targets include reducing sexual transmission of HIV by 50 per cent; reducing HIV transmissions through injecting drug use by 50 per cent; and eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmissions – all by 2015.
So how would these targets be achieved under the UN Declaration?
Firstly, by dramatically scaling up prevention programs; by freeing up access to HIV testing; by increasing HIV education alongside wide availability of condoms and sterile injecting equipment; by promoting male circumcision in certain contexts; and by fully exploiting the potential of new technologies for communication and connecting people – such as social media, mobile phones and the internet.
The UN Declaration also calls for global action to ensure prevention programs properly focus on the three populations which are universally at higher risk to HIV, specifically men who have sex with men, sex workers and their clients and people who inject drugs.
Combination Treatment & ‘Combination Prevention’
Finally, the Declaration calls for new scientific evidence about the additional prevention benefits that HIV treatment can deliver to be capitalised on. So just as HIV treatment was revolutionised 15 years ago by combining different drugs – termed “combination treatment” – the Declaration heralds an era of “combination prevention”, where proven prevention programs and communication innovation are combined with wide availability of HIV treatment to help drive down rates of new HIV infections….
….Now is the opportunity for us to embrace “combination prevention”, re-double our efforts and set bold HIV prevention targets aligned with the 2011 UN Declaration to really drive down [Australia’s] HIV infection rates. (Bill goes on to say what these additional targets could include, for example, in Australia…eo) These targets should include:
Reducing sexual transmission of HIV among men who have sex with men by 80 per cent by 2015. Eliminating HIV transmission from injecting drug use by 2015. Eliminating HIV transmission among sex workers and clients by 2015.
These are the kind of bold actions that the 2011 UN Declaration calls for and that all countries, including Australia, have pledged to implement.
(Bill passionately concludes…)We must not miss this opportunity to re-vitalise our HIV prevention strategies and to help lead global efforts to stop the spread of HIV and its devastating impact on so millions of people around the world.
*Bill Whittaker is one of the architects of Australia’s response to AIDS and has worked in HIV policy and strategy for more than 25 years.
- Scientists find new ‘sugary solution’ to prevent sexual transmission of HIV (news.bioscholar.com)
- House Spending Proposal Sets Back Domestic HIV/AIDS Programs (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Letter: Cut in Aids funding is a high-risk move (guardian.co.uk)
- New Microbicide Targets HIV’s Sugar Coating (medicalnewstoday.com)